Naama Margolese
Eight year old Naama Margolese, faces daily abuse from the ultra-orthodox men in Israel for attending a school which is located close to a religious school for men. PA

Naama Margolese loves her school, but the eight-year-old is frightened to go to her school, because of a reason difficult for her to comprehend at this tender age.

A group of Jewish extremists shouted, jeered and even spat on the poor girl, as she came out of the Orot School in Beit Shemesh, just outside Jerusalem, Israel. They even called her "prostitute" for attending the school.

So what was her fault?

Margolese's school is located close to a hard-line religious school for men. Now she is the target of daily abuses from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremist men known as 'Haredim'. Television footage on Israel's 'Channel 2' has shown the hapless girl shaken and terrified as the men continued to yell at her.

"My stomach hurts every time I need to walk to and from the school and I know those men will be there. They are scary," the Associated Press has quoted Margolese as saying referring to the black robed men who verbally abused her.

"When I walk to school in the morning I used to get a tummy ache because I was so scared … that they were going to stand and start yelling and spitting," she added.

Beit Shemesh and Mea Shearim, neighborhoods of Jerusalem, are traditionally religious but the recent extremist tendencies have been considered unprecedented by the people in the locality. The extremists are aiming at strict gender isolation and prohibition of women from sharing the common platforms and public facilities.

They are demanding women to sit at the back seats of public buses, walk along separately designated sidewalks of the streets. The hardliners have even started assaulting schoolgirls as they consider their school uniforms are immodest.

The Ultra-Orthodox community is a politically influential group of people which constitute nearly 10 percent of the population. Their political influence is termed as the reason for a lack of quick response from the Netanyahu government.

Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked tough terming the extremists not real representatives of Judaism, he has been criticised for neglecting the growing religious extremism in the country for long.

Meanwhile, President Shimon Peres has urged Israelis to rally against ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremism in a protest demonstration held in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday, the BBC has reported.

But the larger Israeli people mostly termed the development as uncivilised and they came out in large numbers on Tuesday protesting against the religious extremists who seek stringent segregation of sexes in public life.

Is that enough?

The latest developments in Israel underline the painful reality that women are the first and easiest target of all extremist religious groups who try to impose their fanatic beliefs on the society.

Reports of human rights violations and strict religious laws intended to restrict women's freedom are common in the Islamic world. Recently, Majlis al-Ifta' al-A'ala, the highest religious council in Saudi Arabia, has suggested in its study that the lifting of driving ban on women would increase prostitution and divorce. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive a vehicle.

Earlier, an Islamic cleric in Europe warned that bananas and cucumbers could arouse sexual thoughts in women so that these fruits should be sliced by their husbands before being consumed by women.

Till date, such incidents were confined to the fanatic thoughts coming out from a minority of fundamentalists in the Islamic countries. But the latest instance of a small girl being subjected to harassment by an extremist religious group in Israel points to the alarming trend of increasing intolerance towards women and their basic rights.

It is high time the authorities of the respective countries act beyond the routine speeches against the perpetrators of crimes and human rights violations against women. Otherwise, there will be no justification for the humanity's claim as a civilised society in the twenty-first century.

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